If you're considering trying some reusable cloth nappies but don't know where to start then hopefully you will find this helpful. I've written about our routine for washing, drying and using them, and where to start if you find it all a bit overwhelming as well as my pros and cons list. There's also a FAQ at the bottom too and feel free to ask more in the comments. I hope it helps :)
The nappy routines for the boys:
For Otis. He is exclusively breastfed so his poo is water soluble, which makes it easier. I’ll cover the process for Ozzy afterwards.
Clean nappy goes on (it’s already prepared for use, I’ll cover that right at the end). If it's just wet I will change him every 2-3hrs. I change a poo immediately.
When he's done a poo I wipe him with a cloth wipe. 1 is always enough.
I put the wipe inside the dirty nappy when I'm done, do it up loosely and put it to the side to go in a nappy bucket when the change is finished and his new nappy is on. We have one in the downstairs toilet and one in the bathroom upstairs too. It’s a bucket from ikea with a tight lid, and upstairs is a miosolo bucket. We line it with a net bag (if you buy a branded bucket it should come with 2 bags). It doesn’t tend to smell but you can soak a piece of kitchen roll or a muslin in something like Zoflora and pop it in the bottom to help mask any smells.
So the new nappy goes on which is as quick and easy as a disposable (because I pre fold them).
Once Otis has worn his 12th nappy it's time for a wash, as we have 24 in total for him. To make it easier we have 2 storage baskets on the nappy shelf. 12 in each. Once one is empty we know its time for a wash.
It’s slightly different for each nappy but:
Bumgenius all in one - I unpopper it and shake the liner out into the drum separately.
Bambino Miosolo: do up the velcro tabs onto the ‘washing tabs’ so they don't hook onto anything in the wash. Pull the attached insert out of the pocket too so it washes properly and also shake the liner into the drum separately.
Littles & Bloomz: shake liner into the drum. Insert comes all the way out seperately too. Washing tabs to do up.
The net bags from the buckets should go in the wash too.
It takes me about 4 minutes to get all the dirty nappies into the machine with all the different parts separated. Then I spend a few minutes cleaning and disinfecting the 2 buckets before putting the clean net bags in.
Also the poo nappies will have a cloth wipe inside, so just shake that into the drum separately too.
First comes a cold rinse which takes about 20 minutes. Then a hot (50/60) long wash (ideally 2-3hrs). Your washing machine shouldn't be more than 3/4 full of nappies. A small amount of non bio POWDER (I can't remember why but I was told powder is much better than liquid). Not too much or residue builds up and causes nappy rash and you need to do a strip wash to reduce this build up. Also Ecover is not recommended because of the build up it creates in the nappy fibres. I do a final rinse to check there are no suds left and then a gentle spin to make sure they don't come out dripping.
Then I air dry them. We have the Ikea octopus hanger with 16 pegs on, one of these in each bathroom that hangs up in the window. The sun dries them fast in the summer and removes any stains. In the winter we put the heating on for an hour and shut the bathroom door. It warms up the room a lot and speeds up the drying process. Tumble drying can damage the nappies and shorten their life.
Different nappies have different drying times. Bumgenius all in ones take about 36 hours, more if you don't turn them inside out to dry. Bambino Miosolos take about 12-16 hours and Littles & Bloomz are so fast, usually I hang them in the evening and they’re dry by morning so less than 12 hours. The inserts for these are separate so can be hung on a radiator easily.
I put away the ones that are dry first so the next box is ready to go in time, and add the Bumgenius in once they’re done.
To prepare the nappies to ensure a quick change I add the insert into the pocket if there is one, and lay a fleece liner down on top then do up the nappy. A fleece liner catches the poo but the wee goes through it to the absorbent part. Fleece stays dry and helps prevent nappy rash.
We also have bamboo boosters which can be added in for extra absorbency. Once Otis sleeps for longer overnight and also does bigger wees we will start using these.
To do the cloth wipes I fold flannels from Ikea and lay them in a box with a clip shut lid. I add water with a few drops of lavender oil so the wipes are damp. We have 24 and I do 12 at a time. Once half are used and in the wash I do the other half.
For out and about I take dry flannels amd a small spray bottle of the mixture so I can wet as needed. I have a special wet bag to put dirty wipes and nappies in that gets emptied into the dirty bucket when we get home.
For Ozzy who is 2, his poo can't be washed off in the machine. If your baby has any formula or food then the poo needs to be dealt with seperately. We use disposable liners for him. It catches the poo and stops it getting onto the actual nappy. You can either bin the liner and poo together in a nappy bag, or tip the poo down the toilet if its solid and throw the liner. Even if the liners say flushable, it’s recommended that you don’t because they often cause blockages.
Same with the cloth wipes for Ozzy's poo, they need to be rinsed in the toilet/shower first so no actual poo is going in the machine. Bit of a gross process at first but you get used to it and it becomes easier as their poos are more solid.
How to get started:
Have a think about your needs. There are so many different styles of nappies and wipes and the choice is a bit overwhelming. The first thing I did was to go to The Nappy Lady website to fill out the questionnaire. If your child is particularly skinny/chunky or long/short you might find certain nappies better than others for fit and for minimising leaks. All of the nappies we have are 'birth to potty' which means using poppers/velcro they grow with the child. This can mean that they aren't always as tight as you would like on a tiny skinny newborn.
You can also get different sized nappies but I don't have any personal experience with these.
Different kinds of nappies include pocket nappies, all in ones, or inner nappies with outer wraps. There are different materials, different styles and a huge price range. The best thing is to fill out the questionnaire and you should receive a reply within a few days giving you more advice and narrowing down the search. The idea is of course then you buy them from The Nappy Lady website but you can still shop around for a better deal if you want to.
We bought Bum Genius all in ones from the Nappy Lady because they were recommended for long skinny babies and easy to boost for overnight. I do like them and we have never had a leak (that wasn't our fault - if you have a boy you should check their willy isn't pointing towards the leg hole or they will have a very wet leg). However they take forever to dry and there aren't that many prints to choose from. They're also the most expensive ones we have but I don't personally see why they are any better than others.
Bambino Miosolos are great too. There is a huge choice of prints. These are cheaper than Bumgenius and so far I think they're worth the money. They dry quickly and again we have had no leaks. I actually lucked out and got a bundle of them on Amazon for a bargain because they were priced wrong. That's the only reason I ordered them to be honest but in hindsight I would have paid full price. They're velcro tabs as opposed to Bumgenius poppers which makes nappy changes with a wriggly child much easier.
Littles & Bloomz are really cheap. Almost too cheap because I was worried they were too good to be true. But after a friend reccomended them I ordered one to try. We really wanted to put Ozzy in reusables, but because he's probably going to be potty training in about 6 months (wishful thinking maybe but that's the plan) the overall cost needed to be cheaper than 6 months of disposables for it to make financial sense (obviously there are other reasons to go for cloth but for us thinking about Ozzy for the next 6 months it was the cost that made our minds up). The nappy I ordered was £4 on Amazon. You had a choice of insert - bamboo or microfibre and I went for bamboo which I think was 50p more.
I was really pleased with it, no leaks during a 3 hour nap and then a poo as soon as he woke up. I ordered more (I was given a heads up that Ebay sold them cheaper). If you bought 5 you got a 6th free so I ended up with 12 for £36, and they threw in a roll of disposable liners and a wet bag for out and about for free! These are for brand new nappies, (you can buy 'preloved' but it's not something I know much about to be honest) and there is a massive choice of prints to choose from. So far we're loving these. Tonight he is wearing one overnight with a booster for the first time so we will see what the morning brings. He has a towel down just incase. He is a very heavy wetter overnight!
Because there is so much choice it's worth thinking about trying a small selection first. You can find a Nappy Library near you or one that posts them out. A quick look and I can see there are 3 local ones for me (I'm in West Yorkshire). You could also buy just one if it's cheaper, like the Littles & Bloomz I bought, to try.
It's worth noting that you should prewash your nappies a few times before use or they won't be properly absorbent. The Nappy Lady more about it in this link. You should also follow the washing instructions here to make sure you don't wash at the wrong temperature, the wrong amount of detergent etc as it can damage the nappies.
It can be confusing to see all the terminology, but I suggest you have a look at a few different styles and then watch the youtube videos available to see how to fold and use them and get a better understanding of all the parts. I found it really confusing at first and wasn't sure which layer went on top or inside pockets. It seemed really complicated until I saw it in practice.
There are liners, inserts, boosters and some nappies have wraps on the outside too. Have a look at the selection and see if you can narrow it down by your budget, your child's age/size etc first.
For us we wanted to create less landfill. That first week with 2 in nappies we filled so many bin bags and it did horrify me a little bit. Although environmental factors were the driving force, it was important to us that we made it worth the money. Tom made a spreadsheet because he's a massive nerd, and worked out the budget we needed to stick to, to make sure we made it financially worth our while. As we managed to get so many bargain nappies I think we worked out by June - a year after starting, we will have spent the same as we would have on disposables in that year. But we will obviously then be carrying on with them for Otis for another year or so - essentially for free! And obviously if 'hypothetical and unlikely' baby no3 appears one day they will be able to wear them all too.
In terms of the cloth nappies it cost about £6 in Ikea for the flannels, and £2 for the box and a small bottle of Lavender oil.
Pros and Cons
Does your child need to size up their clothes to fit a bulky cloth nappy?
For us we haven't had this issue with either of the boys. They tend to wear tight leggings, harems or dungarees so they're relatively stretchy/roomy. Tight jeans might be a problem but I can't say I have ever put either of mine in a pair of jeans - really not their style!
Do you get many leaks?
In theory - none. The nappies can take a bit of getting used to, to get the fit right so you might get some leaks at first - often you think it's tight enough and it isn't. You want it really tight around their legs and it might even leave 'sock marks' but this is good - you want a snug fit.
However if it's the right size and fit for your child, you have done it up tight enough, you change it often enough and you have washed it properly and not damaged it then it should never leak.
What do you do if you're away from home?
So for out and about I take a 'wet bag' which can be bought from anywhere that sells the nappies. Once we have a dirty wipe/nappy it goes in the bag and is zipped up. Then when we get home it gets tipped into the bucket, easy as that. The wipes can be kept in a container/wet bag and taken out wet, but I prefer to keep dry flannels and a bottle of wipe solution in my bag because I hardly ever change a dirty nappy out the house these days.
For holidays to be honest we just go back to disposables. I don't want to be worrying about the wash/dry/fold cycle while we're away and we don't usually stay somewhere with the right equipment. Some people do still manage it though!
I hope that was helpful. Any questions leave a comment :) x